Province approves Kitchener supervised consumption site

The province announced Tuesday it has approved and will fund a consumption and treatment site in Kitchener. The news came on the same day the interim site opened on Duke Street.

Permanent site to be funded by province, announcement expected on opening day of interim site

There are two booths in the consumption room of the interim site in Kitchener. The permanent site has now received provincial approval. (Julianne Hazlewood/CBC)

The Province of Ontario has approved Kitchener's supervised consumption site.

The news of the approval, which means the province will fund the permanent site, comes on the same day the interim site at 150 Duke St. W., opened its doors.

Minister of Health Christine Elliott said in a release her government "welcomes the work done by Region of Waterloo Public Health and Emergency Services, Sanguen Health Centre and their partners in building community support for this new Consumption and Treatment Services site."

The province now has 16 consumption and treatment sites and the province continues to accept applications.

"Ontario remains committed to working with communities to establish a network of programs and services in areas with the greatest need to save lives and connect Ontarians with life-saving treatment and rehabilitation services," Elliott said.

Funding an 'important piece'

Regional Chair Karen Redman said the announcement means the province will provide the approximately $1.6 million the region had asked for to run the permanent site.

"That funding is what funds the personnel and the people that are part of that whole wraparound aspect of the medical clinic as we go forward," she said.

"That's a really important piece of making it a successful experience for the people using and making sure that it's a good neighbour to the people around the clinic."

The region also anticipates receiving about $26,000 in the coming days which, Redman expects, will be used to renovate the space on Duke Street.

Plus, the region and province are also working through a process for health capital funding, which would potentially see the region get an additional $636,000.

Redman said she met with Elliott in recent weeks and Redman "was really impressed with how familiar she was with the kind of process we've gone through and the partnerships that we have in the community."

The region's first supervised consumption site is at 150 Duke St. W., in downtown Kitchener. It opened on Tuesday as an interim site and is expected to become a permanent consumption and treatment site in the new year. (Kate Bueckert/CBC)

First site in region

Regional council approved a supervised consumption site in Kitchener in April and the region received an exemption to the Controlled Drugs and Substances Act from Health Canada in July.

The region funds the interim site until it becomes permanent, an estimated cost of $730,000. The permanent consumption and treatment services site is scheduled to begin operating in February 2020 and Redman says she's optimistic that will happen.

"I think anybody who's renovated a house can appreciate that there's always things that you haven't counted on and unpredictability when you move walls and install new doors and things like that," she said.

This will be the region's first supervised consumption site. There is one already in Guelph. There are talks to open a site in Cambridge, although the city is still working on finding a location.

Redman says she knows the city "has stepped up and the community has stepped up and they are exploring ways to address the needs in Cambridge."

"The solution might look different" than what has been done in Kitchener, Redman said, but she said she has "every confidence that they have community partners at the table. They have city officials at the table they have public health and police and I believe that they're working to find a solution that will address those issues."